Uncomfortable - Part 1
1 Peter 2:4-9
This is the beginning of a series entitled Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community. This series is based off the book of the same title and it is written by Brett McCracken. At times I will reference the author of the book and I will most likely either call him “the author” or Brett because when I say his last name, McCracken, it makes me think of a creature we would find in a book or movie about pirates.
I was drawn to this book and using it for a series because of the title. Not just the word Uncomfortable, but the descriptor that comes after it which says, “the awkward and essential challenge of Christian community.” You might be wondering what that means and why it interested me, and I hope you will quickly discover through this series that this is not about bashing church or church people. One thing that will happen, I believe is that we will all be challenged in the way we live and function among each other, not just as individual believers, but as a church family.
Let’s get started.
The American culture has become a culture of comfort. It’s everywhere you look. We are encouraged to do what we want, when we want, with whomever we want. If something is uncomfortable, we want to avoid it at all costs, because no one enjoys being or feeling uncomfortable. But sometimes, God will ask you to do something that makes you uncomfortable and the excuse of not wanting to be uncomfortable will never be a good enough reason to say no to what God is asking you to do.
So, let’s take a minute here and all think of something together. I want each of you to think of what your dream church would look like.
What kind of worship would there be at this church?
What kind of messages would be preached?
What kind of kids, women’s, and men’s activities and groups would there be?
What would the building look like?
What time would the services be?
Think about it for a minute. I would like to assume, that this church is not that 100% dream church for every person in this room, yet here you are. And that brings us to our first point for today,
#1- Church is not about your preferences; it’s about knowing God.
1 Peter 2:4-5, 9
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Peter wrote this letter to various churches that were experiencing persecution. He was writing here, to encourage them to remember that Jesus was also rejected by people and that as followers of Jesus, those people were called to be “living stones” that are “being built into a spiritual house.”
Warren Wiersbe said, “One of the painful facts of life is that the people of God do not always get along with each other.” He continues to say that “we must not permit our differences to destroy the spiritual unity we have in Christ. We ought to be mature enough to disagree without in any sense becoming disagreeable.”
When I asked you earlier to consider what your dream church would look like I’m sure we all had different ideas. Not just about the building but about the programs, the worship, the messages, the people even. And the problem is not that we are different and might have different opinions about each of these areas, but the fact that at times our differences in opinions lead to us becoming disagreeable.
When we allow our preferences and opinions to divide us instead of uniting us under the mission and purposes of God then we present a divided front as a body of believers. When that happens, we present a divided message and that can’t happen.
Together we are meant to build the church, with each of us represented as a different part of that building. Peter uses the image of a building, so it makes sense to us, but we aren’t building an actual building, we are building a community of believers, a family of followers, and when we each come together with our differences we should look past the things that we don’t agree on and remember that we all serve the same purpose. Only when we decide to ignore the things that we don’t agree on and work together can we truly fulfill the great commission and be used as a body of believers to share the gospel to people who need it.
Continuing with the idea presented by Peter of us being part of a building, Warren Wiersbe puts it this way, “If all of us would follow God’s blueprints given in His word, we would be able to work together without discord and build His church for His glory.”
Which is what we’re supposed to be doing.
In this passage of scripture, Peter is presenting an image of a community that is entirely focused on Jesus. This community has put aside their preferences, quarrels, and comfort zones to become the people and the community of believers that Jesus intended for them to become.
We are called to do and be the same. And Peter even tells us exactly what our purpose is, and you can read it in verse 9.
As a community of believers, we are to “declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” It sounds pretty easy, right? We are to know God and then worship him. We are to set aside the things that could divide us and work together to glorify the name of Jesus, not just in this building, but outside of these walls.
This concept seems easy, but it completely contradicts the culture which places our personal desires for what a church should be like and do for us ahead of the mission of glorifying God.
Society will tell us to leave something that isn’t supplying our needs or isn’t what we want or like and Peter tells us that our focus should not be on whether we are comfortable with everything, but whether or not the name of Jesus is glorified in such a way, that people cannot deny Him and what He’s done in us.
The Message version of the Bible nicely sums up what we are to do, with this translation of verse 9, you are “God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”
A dream church or a perfect church is a myth. There’s no such thing. If you’re waiting for the church to become what you want it to be before you allow God to use you within the church, you will never fulfill the great commission or the purpose that God has for you.
Charles Spurgeon said “If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all, and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us. All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, give themselves to the Lord’s people…As I have already said, the church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it if you are the Lord’s.”
We cannot allow a “market mindset” of shopping to see which church serves us best to influence our spiritual lives. When we do our faith can become less about knowing and serving God and more about finding a place that serves our desires and preferences. We have to allow ourselves to be formed by God and his crazy messed up people rather than assume that the people of God should be catering to us and our preferences.
“If we center our attention and affection on Him, we will walk and work together; if we focus on ourselves we will only cause division.”
“Unity does not eliminate diversity” though. We will still be different people with different preferences, but when we put those aside and focus on our common goal we will be even more effective that we could be on our own.
“Christians can differ and still get along.”
In a world where everyone wants us to all get along regardless of what we think and believe the last place that we should find division because of differences is within the church.
Division begins within us. Individually, we have the choice to either allow ourselves to give in to our desires for things to be comfortable, or we can decide to do what is best for the church even if it’s not what makes us personally comfortable.
#2- The Christian life is supposed to be uncomfortable, so embrace it.
Sounds good right?
One thing we are not promised in scripture is that salvation will bring about only good, comfortable, fun, and enjoyable things for our lives. But that’s not something that should be discouraging.
Let’s take a look at a verse of scripture here
25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
As Jesus was predicting his own death he spoke to those around him saying that following Him would require dying to self. He was letting them know that if they were only concerned about the comforts of this life then they would miss out on so many things that God could do in and through their lives now and they would miss out on the comforts of eternal life. This is not the end. We have an eternal future and that requires us to have an eternal perspective, even now.
C.S. Lewis said “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
What does all that mean?
It’s easy to find basic happiness and comfort. But living the Christian life and being part of a church community requires making sacrifices that may feel uncomfortable but ultimately help us become more like Jesus.
It’s a trade-off, but it’s always worth it.
This begs the question are we “comfortable or conformable?”
Are we willing to be conformed to the image of Jesus even if it makes us uncomfortable?
Jesus told us that living for Him would cost us our lives. For some of the people he spoke to when he originally said this, that would mean literally giving their lives for the cause of Christ. That’s not necessarily the case for us in this nation today but it is still a reality for people throughout the world.
We have a missionary whom we recently started supporting who grew up in a Muslim home and when he chose Christianity his life was threatened by his own father and the rest of his family tried to do anything they could to convince him to change his mind.
That’s the reality for many people in the world. They are threatened and beaten. Often, they lose their families and their homes and their jobs, yet they choose Jesus anyway.
For us, it’s not typically that severe.
Besides our missionary I just mentioned, I don’t know anyone whose life has been threatened because they have chosen to live for Jesus. And Jesus would ask us to be willing to do that if necessary, but for most of us, the things God asks of us will never be that severe or even that difficult. But if they make us feel uncomfortable or awkward we think that’s a good enough reason to say no.
I had someone in the church tell me recently that they prayed for someone while they were at work. This person’s co-workers know about their faith and what it means to them, but they didn’t know the person they prayed for. This person also told me they almost didn’t do it because it made them feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but they did it anyway.
This is the type of thing I’m getting at here. God isn’t always asking you to change jobs in the middle of your career or ask you to drop everything and become a missionary or pastor.
Sometimes God’s asking us to leave our comfort zones and taking a step of faith to be obedient to the call of God.
Maybe God is asking for more of your time. Maybe God is asking you to show your kids that church is a priority to you, so they will grow to understand that in their own lives. It could be that God is asking you to change a habit or way of life you have because he wants you to be more like Him, so you can better represent Him to the world. Because that’s what we’re here to do.
When considering this topic Warren Wiersbe said “we must not be isolated, because the world needs our influence and witness, but we must not permit the world to infect or change us. Separation is not isolation; it is contact without contamination.”
We are meant to be different and live lives that look different than the lives of those who are not followers of God, and we need to maintain this type of lifestyle while living amongst unbelievers so that we can be a light to them without them leading us back into darkness.
We need to be willing to live like Jesus even when it’s hard. We have to be willing to give up our own preferences and desires to do the will of God. The more we align ourselves with God and pattern our lives after the life of Jesus, the easier this will get.
Does that mean we will never be challenged? Of course not!
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus had just told His disciples that they would face persecution because of Him. That their lives would continually be uncomfortable. Then He tells them that He won’t even be there with them when all that happened because He was going back to heaven, then he says this verse.
Jesus tells them that He let them know all of these things, so they could have peace. He told them what to expect, expect trouble. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
That message is for us as well. As a believer, you will have trouble because you’ve chosen to live a life that is fully devoted to Jesus, but take heart because in Jesus you find peace, love, and hope that cannot be found outside of a life that belongs to Jesus.
When you make it a habit to let God be in control of your life and conform yourself to the image of Jesus you begin to understand that there is a purpose and there is a plan.
When you step out in faith and do something that makes you uncomfortable and the result of that step is someone understanding God for the first time or someone saying yes to your invitation to church you will understand that even when things are uncomfortable, the end results are worth it.
So, what does this mean for us right now?
- Stop trying to find fault in the Christian community and embrace the fact that we are all different. With those different opinions and preferences can come a church that is equipped to reach people of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, etc.
- Understand that even though there is no perfect church, we should each do our best to become part of a church family and use what God has given us to help that church grow and develop.
- Learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. God will stretch you and use you in great ways if you will allow Him.
- Remember that moments of feeling uncomfortable will pass and that obedience to the purpose and plan of God can lead to life change for ourselves and others when we are obedient to God.
This series by Pastor Kristin is based on the book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.